Testimony by Michelle Capell

MichelleThe scars of fundamentalism still send the tormented teenager inside of me into a momentary, controlled frenzy when I hear words like “testimony.” It’s brief these days, passes quickly. I am 39 years into this journey and just now truly able to wade the waters of vulnerability and brokenness and less than perfect choices and still see the deeply penetrating light of love and community and forgiveness and desire for what is real and good. I am just now truly diving into the richness and beauty that converges all of those things, where I see how important they all are to my belief in God and what it means to give myself to this beloved community. You see, I took the scenic route on my way here. I thought, back in the day, that I was pretty radical. It took a lot to find my way out of the murky waters of my Southern Baptist upbringing, to come out as a lesbian to my parents who grew up in the depression era, to bear the weight of never (still true) being understood or truly embraced by my family of origin and still being true to who I am. I’ve dipped in the Jesus waters, it’s why I have this beautiful kid to share this life. Her birth mom chose me during one of those seasons that I dipped in the waters. But I am guilty over and over again of jumping out when I can’t see that safety net of security to grab onto. I jump out fully aware that the safety net is contrived and false and leads nowhere and that those Jesus waters carry me to a whole new place full of true richness where love and equality and justice are the currency.

Something’s different now. Something is holding my focus. It’s not lack of brokenness. I am a 39 year old single mom going through a divorce that pulled me to my knees multiple times. I am the most uncomfortable I have ever been in the misalignment of my values and my day to day life. I am an overpaid, over-privileged product of white privilege and supremacy. I am not radical like I claimed in my youth. I have watered Jesus down in ways that prevented my own conversion. What’s different? This place, this church, this community has given me sanctuary to be exposed and vulnerable. I do not need to hide or feel alone. We have each other. With that comes freedom. I don’t mean superficial, selfish, unaccountable freedom. I mean subversive, active, entrenched, communal freedom that changes how we live because, once we let it wash over is, nothing else feels right.

What does that mean right now, in this moment, as this body of people committed to each other and this community. To me, this is when we get radical. Now is when we start getting our bodies and our moneys and our time and our priorities shifted towards the work of love that we all claim. It means we hear our collective call and commit to giving; giving of ourselves to each other, giving of our privilege and abundance in ways that flip the power structure and remembering that from that comes freedom. It means we get our bodies out of our houses and into the streets and we stand where injustice lives. It means we create space and relationships to keep ourselves connected and learning and growing. It means we all claim these beautiful kids and we realize that how we choose the above determines how they start their stories.